34 Success Tips for Middle School PTOs

Middle School PTO Success

No question, middle school is different from elementary school, and not just for the kids. These tips will help your middle school PTO or PTA thrive.

by Christy Forhan


Parent Involvement in Middle School

  1. Recognize that many middle school parents have only a two- or three-year connection with the school, so snag them early and give them easy ways to contribute to the enrichment of the school.

  2. Visit the feeder elementary schools’ PTOs and PTAs late in the school year to promote your group to the “graduating” parents.

  3. Work to integrate parents from all the feeder elementary schools. It’s not uncommon for people from the more dominant elementary school PTO to monopolize the middle school group. Don’t let that happen; it will alienate a large portion of your parent community. Work to build a combined PTO, not just a transplant of what you had in elementary school.

  4. Add a formal parent representative from each feeder elementary school to your executive board.

  5. Plan events that are for parents only. It’s OK and entirely appropriate to bring together middle school parents without the kids.

  6. Make your monthly meetings more of a forum for parent education and less about PTO business. People will be more likely to attend if they will learn something useful for their lives as parents of adolescents.

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Becoming Part of the Middle School Community

  1. Enhance what is already in place. Sometimes the best way to make a positive difference at the school is to help make something better rather than to force in a new idea or event. Work with the principal to identify those opportunities.

  2. Cooperate with the student extracurricular clubs. Know what they are and what they do, who the sponsors are, and what plans they have for community service, activities, and fundraising. Don’t overlap PTO projects or fundraising with those of the clubs.

  3. Learn the principal’s background. If she has never worked in a building with a strong PTO, you many need to educate her on the benefits and reassure her of your group’s intentions.

  4. Get to know the members of the support staff, including the custodians, cafeteria workers, secretaries, and paraprofessionals. They hold the key to getting work done behind the scenes.

  5. Meet with the principal on a regular basis, whether or not she attends your executive board meetings. Ultimately, she determines the effectiveness of your group. She also should keep you, as parent leaders in the school, up to date on school issues.

  6. Respect the time leading up to the school’s state-mandated achievement tests; let the staff concentrate on preparing the kids, not on PTO events.

  7. Introduce your PTO leadership team and committee chairpeople to all the teachers. Middle school teachers interact with dozens more students (and thus parents) than do their elementary school peers. Make sure the teachers know who the active PTO parents are. It won’t be obvious like it was in the smaller, more class-centric environment of the elementary school.

  8. Look for ways to fill the resources gap. Offer to assist with photocopying, review the school website for improvement ideas, set up a team of volunteers to help shelve books in the media center, handle decorations and snacks for the 8th grade graduation, provide a volunteer to post the daily audio announcements to the school website, oversee the recycling program. Probe for ways the parents can be a useful resource at the school—areas where there just isn’t enough time for the staff to handle it all.

Communication Is Still Key in Middle School

  1. Consider the special communication challenge brought on by the lack of a homeroom period. Work with the principal for ideas on the best way to reach the students (at lunch, through daily announcements, during a certain class period, etc.).

  2. Include the school staff on the distribution list for the PTO newsletter and any flyers or announcements. Don’t assume they are reading what you post in the teachers lounge. Put a copy in their mailbox.

  3. Embrace social media to spread PTO news: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok. Even if moms and dads aren’t using these tools, the students are.

  4. Design your lobby bulletin board displays with the students in mind—they are more likely to see your message than most parents. Keep the information relevant and current. Kids get turned off by stale messages just like adults do.

  5. Sign up your PTO secretary for e-newsletters from the feeder elementary schools and the destination high school. That way, she can be on the lookout for opportunities for your PTOs to work together, for new ideas to adopt, and for overlapping or conflicting fundraising projects. These schools share many parents; it’s wise to know what news is coming to them from the other schools’ parent groups.

Student Involvement and the PTO

  1. Involve the students in your long-range and project planning. Let them take some ownership in developing PTO events and activities. Middle schoolers are old enough to help and often hold the key to your event being successful.

  2. Add a student representative to your executive board. Likewise, offer to have a PTO rep attend the student council meetings. Listen for ways to work together for the betterment of the school.

  3. Respect maturity differences when planning events for the middle school student body. What’s fun to a 6th grader might be totally uncool to an 8th grader.

Day-to-Day Middle School PTO Operations

  1. Adopt a logo for your PTO and use it on everything your group produces. Your group needs an identity.

  2. Adjust your PTO goals appropriately for the middle school environment. It’s better to exceed your goals than to spend the year frustrated and discouraged.

  3. At the start of the school year, set the meeting dates (general PTO and executive board meetings) for the whole year. Don’t try to do it month to month. Set expectations early so that the PTO is a priority in your members’ personal schedules.

  4. Consider one-and-done fundraising. There will be plenty of other fundraising appeals to the parent community from the school clubs and interest groups. Focus on one big PTO fundraiser to support a specific PTO budget.

  5. Adopt bylaws. Even a smaller PTO benefits from the protection and guidance offered by a decent set of bylaws. Here’s a rule of thumb: If your group handles money, you need bylaws.

  6. Do not handle finances for any other group, such as a club or sports team. Your attention to financial controls might attract other groups that will want to piggyback off your checking account. Don’t do it.

  7. Don’t get discouraged by decreased fundraising and volunteerism in middle school; the PTO is competing with student clubs, sports teams, and a change in focus by middle school parents. Celebrate your successes.

  8. Have a visible presence at events that bring parents to the building: concerts, conferences, sporting events. If the PTO provides the snacks, post a small sign to that effect. If PTO members act as tour guide or ushers, include your group’s logo on the name tags. If the PTO funds a major piece of technology or building extra, consider attaching a small plaque that indicates so. Let people see their fundraising dollars in action.

  9. It’s OK—important, actually—for the PTO to get public recognition for its contributions to the school. This awareness helps later when the group asks for support of its fundraising. So be sure the school is thanking the organization for its hard work all year long, even if that means you must write the stories for the principal’s monthly letter home.

  10. Sell high school spiritwear to the 8th graders in May. Sell middle school spiritwear to the incoming students in May. Help build a bridge between the schools.

  11. Continue to form project committees and tap those who want to volunteer at the school. Not everyone moves on to other priorities.

  12. Recognize the contributions of your volunteers. The power of “thank you” doesn’t end when elementary school does.

Originally posted in 2011 and updated regularly.

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